State attorney announces new unit to handle animal cruelty cases

Prosecutors to work with law enforcement

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – State Attorney Jeffrey L. Ashton announced Friday the formation of an Animal Cruelty Unit that will allow prosecutors to work in tandem with law enforcement, animal services,and animal protection groups to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty crimes in Orange and Osceola counties, and to streamline management of those cases.

Assistant state attorneys have volunteered to take the animal cruelty cases plus their regular caseloads.

“The Animal Cruelty Unit will be the voice of the voiceless and dedicated to prosecuting those who severely neglect animals or find it entertaining to abuse them,” said State Attorney Jeffrey L. Ashton. “We know there are studies that show a strong correlation between animal abuse and other forms of violence, including domestic. Abuse of any kind cannot be tolerated and I’m proud of our ASAs who have volunteered for this unit.”

Studies have shown that animal cruelty is linked to illicit and criminal behavior, including drug use, gang activity and domestic violence.  Nearly 70 percent of animal abusers had criminal records, and 50 percent  of schoolyard shooters have had stories of animal cruelty.

“Orange County has been at the forefront of prosecuting animal crimes,” said Jennifer Chin, vice president of legal advocacy for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “We look forward to our continued work with the State Attorney’s Office to protect animals. The majority of animal cruelty investigations begin with tips from the public – we encourage citizens to report any suspected cruelty to local law enforcement. A simple call could save lives.”

Florida provides some of the best protection to animals in the nation. The state currently ranks 15th in U.S. animal protection laws, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.